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Color Science Ph.D.

Program overview

Color has been a topic of intense interest and inquiry for hundreds if not thousands of years. As a generalization, color science can be defined as the quantification of our perception of color. Its mastery requires an interdisciplinary educational approach encompassing physics, chemistry, physiology, statistics, computer science, and psychology. Color science is used in the design and control of most man-made colored materials including textiles, coatings, and polymers and to specify such diverse materials as soil and wine. It is used extensively in color reproduction including digital photography, desktop and projection display, and printing. As we begin the 21st century, color science is ubiquitous.

Color science research at RIT encompasses such diverse fields as medical data visualization, computer graphics and animation, art conservation, spectral and spatial measurements of materials, color printing, digital photography, motion picture and television, and modeling of our perceptions for use in defining color quality. RIT has a long history of scholarship in color science.

The program is designed for students whose undergraduate degrees are in physics, chemistry, mathematics, computer science, engineering, experimental psychology, imaging, or any applied discipline pertaining to the quantitative description of color, for example, textiles, graphic arts, animation, material science, and polymer science. All students must earn 60 credit hours as a graduate student. For full-time students, entering with a baccalaureate degree, the program requires three or more years of study at the graduate level. The curriculum is a combination of required courses in color science, elective courses appropriate for the candidate’s background and interests, a research project during the second year of study, and a research dissertation. Students must pass a qualifying examination during their second year of study and a candidacy examination at least one year prior to completing their dissertation. Candidates who wish to enter the program, but lack adequate preparation, might be required to complete undergraduate foundation courses in mathematics, statistics, computer science, and general science before matriculating with graduate status.


The degree requires 60 credit hours of course work and research.

Core courses

The following core courses are completed during the first year of study: Principles of Color Science (CLRS-601), Computational Vision Science (CLRS-720), Color Physics and Applications (CLRS-602), Modeling Visual Perception (CLRS-820), Historical Research Perspectives (CLRS-750), and Research and Publication Methods (CLRS-751).


Elective courses are selected depending on the student’s interests and background. The program director must approve all electives.

Color science, Ph.D. degree, typical course sequence

CourseSem. Cr. Hrs.
First Year
CLRS-601 Principles of Color Science 3
CLRS-720 Computational Vision Science 3
CLRS-750 Historical Research Perspectives 1
CLRS-602 Color Physics and Applications 3
CLRS-820 Modeling Visual Perception 3
CLRS-751 Research and Publication Methods 2
CLRS-820 Electives 6
Second Year
  Research 6
  Elective 3
  Research or Electives 12
Third Year
  Research 12
Fourth Year
  Research 6
Total Semester Credit Hours 60

Years four and beyond

Students will follow their study plan consisting of research credits, thesis credits, and elective courses.

Second year project

During the second year, the student will engage in graduate-level research. The topic may or may not be the same as the dissertation topic. One of the purposes of this research project is to evaluate the student’s research capabilities and suitability for doctorate-level research.

Qualifying examination

All students must pass a qualifying examination, which determines whether the student has a sufficient depth of knowledge in color science and the ability to perform research at the doctoral level.

The qualifying exam consists of a written test and an evaluation of the second-year research project. The written test is given twice each year and is based on the core curriculum in color science and any material deemed appropriate by the committee. Note that these courses’ required readings include textbooks and current literature. An evaluation of the second-year research project includes depth of research, productivity, quality, analytical skills, and the ability to communicate results. A written document is submitted in the style of a published proceeding.

The student must successfully pass the qualifying examination to continue in the program. Students who do not pass the qualifying examination may request, in writing, to the color science graduate coordinator to change their program to the MS program. Requests must be received before the end of the semester in which the second written test is taken. Students with permission to enter the MS program will use their second year research project as an MS research thesis topic. A written thesis is required. Students can graduate with an MS in color science.

Dissertation research adviser and committee

After the student passes the qualifying examination, a dissertation research adviser will be selected based on the student’s research interests, faculty research interests, and discussions with the color science graduate coordinator. A dissertation committee of four members is appointed for the duration of the student’s tenure in the program. The committee includes the dissertation research adviser, one member of the color science faculty, and an external chair appointed by the dean of graduate studies. The external chair must be a member of the RIT faculty who is not a current member of the color or imaging science faculty, preferably with tenure. The fourth member may be an RIT faculty member, or a professional affiliated with industry or another institution. The color science graduate coordinator must approve committee members who are not RIT faculty.

The dissertation committee will prepare and administer the examination for admission to candidacy; assist in planning and coordinating research; provide research advice; supervise the writing of the dissertation; and conduct the final examination of the dissertation.

Study plan

During the first semester of study, the student and the color science graduate program director will develop a study plan. This plan may be revised as necessary, subject to approval by the graduate program director. For example, the dissertation research adviser or the dissertation committee might recommend a revised study plan to include specific graduate electives.

Admission to candidacy

When the student thoroughly understands the dissertation research topic, the dissertation committee will administer an examination to determine if the student can be admitted to candidacy for the doctoral degree in color science. The purpose of the examination is to ensure the student has the necessary intellectual skills and background knowledge to carry out their specific doctoral-level research project. The dissertation research adviser will define the type of examination and any requirements prior to the examination. Requirements include a dissertation proposal and may additionally include a review of literature, preliminary experiments, and the preparation of an oral presentation. The examination must be administered no later than one year prior to defending the dissertation.

Final examination of dissertation

Once the dissertation has been written, distributed to the dissertation committee, and the committee agrees to administer the final examination, the doctoral candidate can schedule the final examination.

The final examination of the dissertation is open to the public and is primarily a defense of the dissertation research. The examination consists of an oral presentation by the student, followed by questions from the audience. The dissertation committee may also elect to privately question the candidate following the presentation. The dissertation committee will immediately notify the candidate and the color science graduate program director of the result of the examination.

Teaching experience

All candidates for the Ph.D. must serve as a teaching assistant for a minimum of one course before scheduling the final examination of the dissertation. Candidates are encouraged to serve as a teaching assistant for two courses.

Public presentation experience

All candidates for the Ph.D. must present research in a public forum before scheduling the final examination of the dissertation. The preferred public forum is a technical conference.

Admission requirements

To be considered for admission to the Ph.D. program in color science, candidates must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Hold a baccalaureate degree from an accredited university,
  • Submit scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE),
  • Submit official transcripts (in English) for all previously completed undergraduate and graduate course work,
  • Have a GPA of 3.0 or higher (or a minimum GPA of 3.0 in foundation course work),
  • Submit at least two letters of academic and/or professional recommendation. Referees should send recommendation letters by email to or via postal service directly to Graduate Enrollment Services.
  • Participate in an on-campus interview (when possible), and
  • Complete a graduate application,
  • For international applicants whose native language is not English must submit scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language. Minimum scores of 587 (paper-based) or 94 (Internet-based) are required. International English Language Testing System (IELTS) scores will be accepted in place of the TOEFL exam. Minimum scores will vary; however, the absolute minimum score required for unconditional acceptance is 6.5. For additional information about the IELTS, please visit

Candidates without adequate undergraduate work in related sciences must take foundation courses prior to matriculation into the graduate program. A written agreement between the candidate and the program coordinator will identify the required foundation courses. Foundation courses must be completed with an overall B average before a student can matriculate into the graduate program.

The required undergraduate-level foundation courses as are follows: one year of calculus, one year of college physics, one year of college physics laboratory, one course in computer programming, one course in matrix algebra, one course in statistics, and one course in introductory psychology.

Additional information


Students receiving fully funded assistantships tend to have minimum undergraduate cumulative grade point averages of 3.5 and exceptional GRE scores. International applicants who must submit TOEFL scores, must have scores above 600 (paper-based) or 100 (Internet-based). Students who submit IELTS scores must have a minimum score of 7.0. Applicants seeking financial assistance must submit all application documents to the Office of Graduate Enrollment Services by January 15 for the following academic year.


All students in the program must spend at least three consecutive semesters (summer may be excluded) as resident full-time students to be eligible to receive the Ph.D.

Time limitations

All candidates for the Ph.D. must maintain continuous enrollment during the research phase of the program. The maximum number of research credits that apply to the degree does not limit such enrollment. Normally, full-time students complete the course of study for the doctorate in approximately four to five years. Requirements for the degree must be completed within seven years of the date students pass the qualifying examination.

Color science MS graduates

Graduates from the MS program in color science, who are interested in the doctoral program, should contact the color science graduate program director to discuss their suitability for doctoral-level research. Before matriculating into the program, students must pass the qualifying examination. Once the examination has been passed successfully, students can be admitted into the doctoral program. The doctoral degree can be completed on a full- or part-time basis as long as the residency requirements are met.

MS and MA graduates from related disciplines

Because of the interdisciplinary nature of color science, it is anticipated that students with MS and MA degrees will apply to the Ph.D. program. Graduate courses in related disciplines can be used as elective courses toward the degree. Furthermore, for degrees that required a research thesis, the second year research project might be waived. Thus, it might be possible for students with graduate degrees in a related discipline to take the qualifying examination during their first year of study. The color science graduate program director determines the specific courses and credit hours that can be applied toward the Ph.D. in Color Science.

Career Outcomes

Job Titles

Color scientist, optical engineer, R&D engineer, imaging scientist


Electronic imaging, color instrumentation, colorant formulation and basic and applied research

Recent Employers

Eastman Kodak Co., GDE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Polaroid, Xerox

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